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The A Priori Thesis: A Critical Assessment
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Philosophy.
2007 (English)In: Croatian Journal of Philosophy, ISSN 1333-1108, Vol. VII, no 19, 47-61 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Recent debates about thought experiments have focused on a perceived epistemological problem: how do thought experiments manage to provide knowledge when they yield no new empirical data? A bold answer to this question is provided by James Robert Brown’s platonism, according to which a certain class of thought experiments allow a sort of intellectual perception of laws of nature, understood as relations between universals. I suggest that there are three main problems with platonism. First, it is restricted to a very small class of thought experiments; hence, it largely fails to address the general epistemological problem. Second, it is not quite clear what it is supposed to explain. Third, its explanatory value in any case seems dubious, since what the mechanisms it postulates (i) appear to raise issues more difficult than what they would explain, and (ii) would seem to obviate the very need for conducting thought experiments. I also argue that it fails to give an accurate account of Brown’s flagship example, Galileo’s thought experiment on falling bodies. In conclusion, I suggest that although platonism about thought experiments is an exciting thesis, it is at present unconvincing.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. Vol. VII, no 19, 47-61 p.
Keyword [en]
thought experiments, a priori, James Robert Brown, platonism
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-10436ISI: 000255531000004OAI: diva2:176955
Available from: 2008-01-02 Created: 2008-01-02 Last updated: 2011-01-11Bibliographically approved

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Häggqvist, Sören
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